Microsoft Partner Rolls Out .Net SCM for SMBs

ODS' software might compete against Microsoft Business Solutions, but Microsoft doesn't seem to mind at all.

Microsoft partner ODS Software on Monday rolled out a .Net Framework-enabled supply chain application first created for Fortune 100 customer Weyerhaeuser Inc. as a commercial product for small and midsize businesses.

The new edition of ODS software brings Microsofts Web Services and Smart Client architecture to wholesale building suppliers, an industry still dominated mainly by old-fashioned, text-based "green screen" applications, said Ian MacNeil, ODS vice president of sales and marketing.

Capabilities of the XML-based software include inventory management, logistics, sales, operations and procurement.

MBS (Microsoft Business Solutions)s four emerging business solutions—particularly Axapta—are indirect competitors to ODS software, MacNeil said in an interview.

"But weve actually been getting very good attention from Microsoft. Our customer, Weyerhaeuser, is a $7 billion company, and Microsoft likes that," MacNeil said.

For instance, Microsoft has appeared alongside ODS in presentations at several trade shows lately, including a venture capitalist conference.

Weyerhaeuser, the kingpin of wholesale building suppliers, uses ODS software largely to manage sales and distribution to retail chains such as Home Depot and Dunn Lumber.

Previously, the distributor had deployed an earlier Windows-based version of ODS software that used a "fat client."

But the new Web services-enabled edition provides much faster performance, according to MacNeil.

"Speed is the thing [that Weyerhaeuser wanted]," he said. "This [software] drives like a Ferrari."

MacNeil attributed the faster performance to architectural improvements to the application.

End users now access Microsofts server-based SQL Server directly from the software client, instead of synchronizing between client and server databases as they did in the past.

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Aside from Axapta and other Microsoft Business applications, ODS also competes indirectly with SAP AG and Oracle Corp., he said.

Direct competitors in the wholesale building supply chain market include DMSi Software and Activant Solutions Holdings Inc.

"But were the only ones to be fully supporting the .Net Framework, and the realtime aspect of our database access is really unique," MacNeil said.

As some analysts see it, Microsofts willingness to help promote ODS application is one of many indications that the OEM is staking out ground for .Net in the SMB (small and midsize business) ERP (enterprise resource planning) and business applications markets.

Greg Aimi, an industry analyst at AMR Research, pointed out that SAP and Oracle have already achieved wide penetration of the enterprise ERP space.

"But there are lots of niches [in the SMB market], and theres no way that Microsoft [alone] can fill all of them," the analyst said, during another interview.

With the exception of an SAP financial accounting application, Weyerhaeuser is running its entire company around ODS software, MacNeil said.

ODS product integrates with SAPs for importing and exporting financial data, the ODS vice president said.

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